Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Budget Debate Starts in House

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

ANNAPOLIS — The House of Delegates today begins debate on a state budget proposal that reforms pensions for state employees, restores a large chunk of cuts to K-12 education funding and raises several fees to generate tens of millions in new revenue to help shore up a dedicated transportation fund.

The House Appropriations Committee last week approved a series of budget cuts and fee increases to Gov. Martin O’Malley’s budget proposal.

Lawmakers will debate a series of amendments to the budget today before giving the bill preliminary approval. A final vote on the budget is expected Friday.

The budget approved by the Appropriations Committee would increase several fees to generate more than $60 million in new revenue. The bulk –about $50 million — will come from a proposed increase to the titling fee for vehicle purchases, which would double from $50 to $100. Another $2 million to $3 million in new revenue would come from doubling the fee for vanity license plates from $25 to $50.

The money generated from those two fees will go toward the state’s Transportation Trust Fund, which O’Malley is planning to tap to the tune of $100 million this session to plug budget holes.

“This is designed to provide some help and relief for transportation instead of doing some sort of gasoline tax,” said Delegate John Bohanan, a St. Mary’s Democrat and key member of the Appropriations Committee. “We’ve got to come up with some funds for transportation.”

The budget approved by the committee also increases a fee Marylanders pay to file property tax records from $20 to $40. That change is estimated to raise about $10 million, Bohanan said.

House Republicans fired back at the House spending plan Wednesday, saying the budget does little to address long-term debt and spending. The proposed fees, said House Minority Leader Anthony O’Donnell, amount to the government “taking money out of the private sector.”

“We don’t have a revenue problem. These are revenue mechanisms,” said O’Donnell, R-Calvert. “We have a spending problem and this budget doesn’t address our over-spending.”

House Republicans are readying amendments to present today. O’Donnell did not elaborate on specifics but said the amendments will “highlight greater opportunities to reduce spending in Maryland.”

House GOP leaders presented a proposal earlier this month that outlined $621 million in additional spending cuts on top of the nearly $1 billion in reductions O’Malley proposed in his budget.

O’Malley’s budget proposal would cut the state’s structural deficit, which is estimated between $1.7 billion and $1.9 billion, by $730 million. The House budget goes a bit further and seeks to slash the structural deficit by $803 million.

That’s not enough, Republicans say, and the GOP proposal presented last month would eliminate about two-thirds of the deficit in fiscal 2012 and the rest by fiscal 2013.

“The Democrat plan is silent with regard to when the structural deficit will be completely fixed,” O’Donnell said. This budget “doesn’t solve our problem and it kicks the can down the road.”

Bohanan, the chair of the Education and Economic Development Subcommittee, said Democrats refused to cut deeper because any further reductions could “decimate” education funding. The committee voted last week to restore about $58 million of the $94 million O’Malley cut in funding for K-12.

“That’s the one priority we continue to hold and maintain,” Bohanan said.

The House gets the first shot at the budget this year. Bohanan said the Senate is “in sync” with the majority of the House plan, but the two chambers will likely have to reconcile differences on pension reform.

The House is proposing to change O’Malley’s pension reform plan by requiring state employees to pay 7 percent of their salaries instead of 5 percent into their pension plans. O’Malley’s proposal would have given state employees the option to choose between 7 percent and 5 percent contributions.

The Senate on the other hand could move toward a shift to have local governments help pay for pensions. The House last year rejected a “wholesale shift,” Bohanan said.

“The main thing is going to be pensions,” he said. “We’ll be in sync on education funding, but pension reform will be different.”

By Capital News Service’s David Saleh Rauf.

More Immigration Debate Expected Wednesday Night

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011
Students from Patterson High School in Baltimore wait for lawmakers outside the Senate chamber in Annapolis before debate begins on a bill granting in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants.

Students from Patterson High School in Baltimore wait for lawmakers outside the Senate chamber in Annapolis before debate begins on a bill granting in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants.

ANNAPOLIS – After a charged three-hour morning debate, the Senate on Wednesday adopted the favorable committee report on in-state tuition for undocumented students, but will be back for more debate at 5 p.m.

The time was largely spent on debate over a committee amendment clarifying that undocumented students would be required to first attend the community college that services their high school for an associate’s degree or 60 credits. There had previously been confusion over whether undocumented students could shop around the state for a community college to attend at in-county tuition rates.

The amendment, clarifying that they could not, passed 26-20.

Senate Minority Leader Nancy Jacobs, R-Cecil, said she has at least nine amendments lined up for the evening’s debate, but could prepare more before they assemble.

Concerns raised included the increased cost of providing state aid for community colleges, estimated at almost $800,000 in 2014 and $3.5 million in 2016, depending on how many students take advantage of the law.

Although opponents say the bill would be too expensive, supporters say the legislative analysis doesn’t take into account the benefits of a larger population of college graduates, including increased revenues from income taxes.

“How do you put a value on a college education?” asked Senate President Mike Miller.

The law requires that students attend a Maryland high school for two years, graduate from a Maryland high school, apply within fours years of graduation, and attend their local community college until they receive an associate’s degree. In order to continue receiving in-state tuition, students must then enroll in a public, four-year institution within four years of attaining an associate’s degree or 60 credits.

Students, or their parents or guardians, must show that taxes have been filed during that time. Students must also submit an affidavit testifying that they will apply for legal status within 30 days of becoming eligible.

Opponents of the bill argued that the bill was an unfunded mandate for the local governments that fund community colleges, that students would be incriminating themselves or their parents by revealing their immigration status through tax filings, and that the state would be violating federal law by enacting the legislation.

Supporters, led by Sen. Paul Pinsky, D-Prince George’s, said that local governments determine how to fund their community colleges, that the Internal Revenue does not enforce legal status and therefore students will not be incriminating themselves, and that 10 other states have already enacted similar legislation.

Four of those states are considering repealing those laws.

Opponents also argued that the law would be unfair for legal residents and citizens, giving space and resources to undocumented students.

Testimony on the House of Delegates’ version of the bill is being heard in committee Wednesday.

– By Capital News Service’s Holly Nunn

In-State Tuition Bill Debate Starts at State House

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

ANNAPOLIS — The debate over allowing undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition is heating up in the Senate.

The full Senate started debating the bill a little over an hour ago, and opponents already  have tried to bounce the bill back to committee and delay further debate until Thursday so they can ready more amendments. The Senate rejected both.

The debate grew contentious when Sen. E.J. Pipkin, R-Queen Anne’s, led the charge to have the proposal sent to the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee because it has a fiscal note that wasn’t previously considered.

According to the fiscal note, the proposal would cost the state nearly $800,000 in fiscal 2014. That jumps to about $3.5 million by fiscal 2016.

Opponents argued that any bill that could negatively affect state coffers should be considered first by the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.

At one point, Senate President Mike Miller resorted to his gavel to quiet Pipkin.

“I didn’t think there was a fiscal note,” Miller said, moments before the his gavel came down. “You’re not recognized.”

The motion to bounce the bill back to committee failed by a 33-14 vote.

Listen to audio of the Senate exchange below:

Shortly after, Senate Minority Leader Nancy Jacobs tried to “special order” the bill, which would essentially delay debate until Thursday,  so that opponents could prepare more amendments.

That motion failed 33-13, but not before senators gave us a snapshot of the contentious debate ahead.

We need to “try and keep this debate as nice as the previous debate on a contentious” bill, Miller said, referencing the relatively smooth ride a same-sex marriage proposal received in the Senate two weeks ago.

Jacobs responded: “That’s not going to happen, Mr. President.”

–By Capital News Service’s David Saleh Rauf

Legislators Still Grappling with Juvenile Justice Equality Bill

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

ANNAPOLIS – The Department of Juvenile Services and legislators are trying to wiggle their way out of a $2 million price tag on a bill mandating equal services for girls.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jamie Raskin and Delegate Kathleen Dumais, Democrats from Montgomery, requires that the department “provide females a range and quality of services substantially equivalent to those offered to males.” A fiscal analysis of the bill estimated the cost at $2 million for new programs and facilities.

But supporters say the department can do it within the current budget.

Advocates for the bill, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, the Maryland Association of Resources for Families and Youth and the attorney general’s Juvenile Justice Monitoring Unit, argue that the department can extend programs using existing resources and a little creativity.

“To do what we need to do does not require a new building,” Dumais said.

The department has vocational, recreational and educational programs for some boys in detention, like traveling basketball teams, wood shop, swimming pools and wilderness adventure programs. For boys in Baltimore, there is an evening reporting center, where kids receive help with homework, mentoring and a place to be during peak trouble-making hours.

No such programs exist for girls. According to advocates, this is a violation of the state’s equal rights amendment.

A night in an evening reporting center costs the state $50 for each child, while a day in detention at the only state-run, all-girls facility, Thomas J.S. Waxter Children’s Center, costs the state $572.

Supporters of the bill understand that in a tough fiscal year, the bill can’t pass with a $2 million price tag. Advocates are working closely with the department and bill sponsors to draft an amendment that will make clear the department’s requirement to use existing resources.

One suggested amendment would list the services that need to be opened up to girls, like the vocational training and evening reporting classes. Sonia Kumar of the Maryland ACLU worries that a list could leave out some needs.

“Enumerating the services implies that other services need not be substantially equivalent,” said Kumar. “We are trying to provide the department with maximum flexibility to meet the requirements of the law.”

The legislative wrangling comes as the department gets new leadership in acting secretary Sam Abed, after the November resignation of Donald DeVore.

Many advocates, in both the lobby and the legislature, say they are encouraged by Abed’s willingness to work with them on necessary reforms in the troubled department.

O’Malley appointed Abed, who spent five years in Virginia’s juvenile justice agency, less than a month ago. He has not been confirmed.

– By Capital News Service’s Holly Nunn.

Sick Midshipmen Quarantined at Naval Academy

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

An outbreak of suspected H1N1 at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis has led officials to quarantine infected students in an isolated area of the Bancroft Hall dorm. The first case of H1N1 was confirmed on Sept. 10, and since then, seven total cases have been confirmed, according to a statement from Deborah Goode, director of media relations at the Academy.

Since the outbreak began, the number of students with influenza-like illness quarantined in Bancroft Hall has been as high as 75, but now is decreasing, and as of Tuesday, 30 students remained isolated, Goode said.

In addition to educating midshipmen on flu prevention and good hygiene, Academy officials are asking midshipmen every morning if they’re experiencing flu-like symptoms, hand sanitizer is being made available at locations throughout the campus and common areas such as bathrooms and locker rooms are being cleaned more frequently in an effort to contain the spread of the virus, the statement said.

Midshipmen in isolation are receiving “continuous monitoring by staff and medical personnel,” as well as meals, fluids, and laundry and bed linen services, the statement said.

In a letter addressed to family and friends of midshipmen, Commandant of Midshipmen Capt. Matthew Klunder said the Academy is also in the process of providing e-mail access and DVD players to isolated midshipmen.

“I am most proud of them as they deal with this unfortunate situation, but we are all pitching in to make their stay as comfortable and pain free as possible,” the letter reads.

All midshipmen have now been vaccinated for seasonal influenza, and when the H1N1 vaccine is ready, the Academy will implement a plan to vaccinate midshipmen and military staff, the statement said.

- By Capital News Service’s Megan E. Gustafson.

Slots Developer Sees Happy Returns

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

ANNAPOLIS – The developer who wants to put slots at Arundel Mills Mall has a rosier outlook than most when it comes to the state’s revenue generating prospects from the controversial machines.

“The revenue that the state hoped to receive is going to be exceeded,” said David Cordish on WYPR’s “Midday with Dan Rodricks” radio show Thursday.

His company, Cordish Cos., intends to build a massive entertainment and gambling facility next to the shopping mall off of Route 100 in Anne Arundel County.

The state received only four complete bids for fewer than half of the 15,000 machines allowed under a referendum Maryland voters passed in November. Even if all 6,550 machines are approved, the state stands to lose about half of the $600 million it promised slots would generate for education.

It might take an extra year for the state to reach its revenue estimates, but it will happen, Cordish said.

Cordish expects other developers, all of whom have submitted bids for fewer than the maximum number allowed for each site, to increase their requests over time.

Cordish has already requested the maximum number of slots for the Anne Arundel County license, 4,750. A state commission isn’t expected to decide on any of the proposals for several months.

One way Cordish doesn’t want to increase slots earnings — putting machines 15 minutes away from Arundel Mills, at BWI-Marshall Airport.

“It would clearly be inappropriate at the airport,” Cordish said. “It would not be a good idea.”

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert, said Tuesday that putting slot machines at Maryland’s biggest airport would be a great way to capture out-of-state money and wouldn’t interfere with the Arundel Mills proposal. Delegate Eric Bromwell, D-Baltimore County, has introduced a bill to put slots at the airport, but it’s not expected to pass the House.

Cordish also said his gambling facility will benefit the surrounding neighborhood by increasing the level of security and adding additional free parking spaces which could be used by mall shoppers.

And despite the state throwing out a bid to put slots at Laurel Park race track for failing to include the licensing fee, Cordish believes his facility will help Maryland’s racing industry more than the Laurel Park bid could have.

“We will do more for racing by having it at Arundel Mills than if we are actually connected to a race track,” he said. “We will maximize revenues for the state.”

Of the slots proceeds, 9.5 percent is designated for horse racing interests.

By Capital News Service’s Dylan Waugh.

O’Malley Holds Town Hall on Education

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

ANNAPOLIS – They came to Dr. Henry A. Wise, Jr. High School Wednesday to ask him the tough questions, but before they could confront the guest of honor, they had to file past career fair-style booths, listen to live jazz and do him a favor.

“Turn to your neighbor and tell them we have the best public school system in America,” Gov. Martin O’Malley said, before taking questions from the audience. “Turn to your other neighbor and tell them we have the best public school system in the United States of America.”

That was nearly an hour into the show.

Hundreds of people filed into the school auditorium for the 6:30 p.m. kickoff of O’Malley’s Town Hall on Education and the Economy in Upper Marlboro, the second stop on his tour that will travel across the state.

As the audience strolled in sporting suits and designer bags, the Henry A. Wise Jazz ensemble, seated in front of a large projection screen decorated with the state seal and the name of the event, played popular tunes on stage.

Kim Seidel, principal of Greenbelt Elementary School, bypassed the sign-up sheet near the entrance where people registered to ask the governor a question because she was there to listen to what the governor had to say.

But in the nearly 45 minutes before he took the floor, she was there for the jazz.

“I think it’s great,” Seidel said of the ensemble. “It’s an opportunity for the kids to have a large audience to perform for.”

The entertainment didn’t stop there.

After the color guard led a processional down the aisle and a student saxophonist played the “Star Spangled Banner” and the Teacher of the Year was introduced and the student crew who was responsible for the lighting and sound were thanked, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown took the floor.

It was 7:04p.m.

He introduced the “O’Malley-Brown team” — heads of state departments from education to transportation to health and mental hygiene. They were seated at a long, banquet-style table in front of the jazz ensemble.

Brown then thanked the crowd for the academic gains made by the students of Prince George’s County schools, and he thanked the administration for its efforts to improve public safety.

“But I don’t want to steal the show. I want you to help me bring to the podium my friend, our governor, Martin O’Malley,” he said, as the crowd applauded.

“I have been in Washington, D.C., all day and I can’t tell you how good it feels to come to gorgeous Prince George’s County,” O’Malley said, also to a round of applause.

Before taking questions, O’Malley rallied the audience with a call for action.

“In the course of this week, I want you to tell five people — at work, at home , at church, at the barbershop or beauty parlor — tell five people that Education Week Magazine named Maryland as having the best public school system in the United States of America,” he said, again to a round of applause.

O’Malley took the first question at 7:28p.m.

-By Capital News Service’s Erika Woodward

Prince George’s Schools Superintendent Resigns

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

The Prince George’s County Board of Education accepted the resignation of Superintendent John E. Deasy Tuesday.

Deasy, who was hired in 2006, will become deputy director of the education division at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Deputy Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. was chosen by the board to serve as interim superintendent beginning Feb. 1, after Deasy leaves. The board has not yet settled on an approach to finding a replacement for Deasy but has begun that process, said John White, Prince George’s County Public Schools spokesman.

“We will certainly want to hire someone who is familiar with the culture of this particular environment, and that doesn’t mean they have to come from Prince George’s County, but they certainly need to be aware of the demographics of Prince George’s County,” said Judith James, executive director of the Board of Education.

Deasy’s doctoral degree from the University of Louisville was under scrutiny this month due to the small number of credits that he completed at that institution. Although the university’s doctoral students usually complete 18 credit hours in full-time residency, Deasy completed only nine credit hours there.

Capital News Service also reported last week that Deasy’s resume included two anomalies. He listed a faculty position at Loyola Marymount University, Calif., but that institution’s human resources department could not find any records to show he held that position. There also were questions about the date on which Deasy received a master’s degree from Providence College.

“We’re not, and have not, allowed any of that to affect our decision making,” said James, referring to the investigation. “Dr. Deasy has been very successful in his efforts here, and it has proven itself in how well our students are achieving.”

–By Capital News Service’s Megan A. Conlan

Avoiding Debt 101

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

Congress recently introduced legislation that would make it harder for credit card companies to market to college students, and harder for the students to qualify for the cards.

Some local universities are also taking steps to reduce the level of debt among students.

Did you get into credit card debt as a student? Would a session at orientation or a required freshman course have made a difference in your financial behavior?

Are universities offering these courses headed in the right direction, or might there be a better solution to the student debt problem?

–From Maryland Newsline’s Avital Medoff

Lusby Teen Turns Convention Insider

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

ST. PAUL, Minn. – There were some exciting firsts here this week for Lusby’s Alex Case.

“It’s really neat to be here, I’m really excited about it all,” said Case, 16, a junior at Patuxent High School. Case was nominated anonymously by a teacher to participate in LeadAmerica, a youth leadership program, and flew for the first time to get to the Republican National Convention in St. Paul.

Case is one of 46 students attending the convention, and she admits she has more of an interest in forensic psychology than in politics.

“I honestly didn’t know much about the election.  . . .  I knew that I agreed with (John) McCain more than (Barack) Obama, but it feels good now to know more about what is going on.”

Her first glimpse of the convention was Tuesday night, since she was not permitted to leave her hotel Monday because of the protesters, some of whom she said were staying in the same hotel.

“Fred Thompson was my favorite, he was funny,” Case said. “That’s how you catch my attention, he was more relatable.”

By Capital News Service’s Lauren C. Williams